A: In both sports and business, leaders seek to be at the top of their game. As a leader, what are the methods you can use to steer your team toward shared goals?
SP: Getting the entire team on one page is a big challenge. One extremely important method that really helps in achieving this is honest, clear communication. For example, if I am being dropped from the side, I need to know what the reasons are and what I can improve on. If these points are not shared, insecurities develop which hamper the progress of the team. Keeping a team together is basically creating an environment where people don’t feel this and that only happens when they know what’s going on and when there is no uncertainty. This helps the team dynamics.
Be clear about your decisions as a leader. Show that they are based on reason, logic and backed by facts. Create a good environment, motivate your team members, build confidence in them and you’re on the right track.
A: Talking about your career as a cricketer, were there any unpredictable situations that you encountered? What strengths did you draw on to deal with them?
SP: Toward the end of my cricket career, there was a phase where I was not performing well and I was dropped from the state team. This was something I had never experienced before as throughout my career I had always been a part of the 11. Being on the outside, so to speak, was not a feeling I was familiar with. I was also not informed properly about this decision and why it had been taken.
So, it hit me very hard. What really helped get me through this trying time was a support system outside my cricketing world. I think such a system out of one’s workplace helps as it provides a perspective you may not get from within. For instance, for a cricketer, family would be that support system. It could be the same for corporate employees. You need to have someone who can be honest with you. If you see a failure as a setback, someone else can point out how it’s not the end of the road and how annual results matter more, or that you will get another opportunity to prove yourself. Basically, I did not draw on any inner strengths, but my support system kept me going by encouraging me.
A: Expectations and pressure are part of any job today. Have you ever been put in this position and if so, what are the strategies you used to cope?
SP: I have been in that kind of situation. Your attitude is what will see you through. It really helped that I was doing something that I enjoyed. So, when the pressure hits you, take a step back and think of what you are doing and why you are doing it. For example, as a cricketer, I would remember that it’s just a game and it’s what I love. Do it from the heart rather than thinking of the pressures of performance. Enjoy doing it, and even if you can’t do it well on one particular day, you’ll still have opportunities to do better.
Keep in mind that you’re in a better position than those who don’t enjoy their jobs. Stay in the moment rather than think about what could happen if something goes wrong. Break it down to what needs to be done now. One strategy that helped me in high-pressure situations is to breathe properly. Something as simple as that can help calm you down and change the perception of that pressure. Pranayama is something that has helped me immensely. You have to find what works for you and this is only by trial and error.
A: So, staying focused, being resilient, controlling one’s composure and putting team goals ahead of one’s needs are strategies that work both on the field and in the corporate world. Apart from this, are there any useful lessons one can take from the stadium to the office?
SP: Generally, cricket or any sport is something that shows you who you are—just through performance. The same is for high-pressure situations at work. The way you react to these situations is probably who you are, not who you would like to be. You need that awareness and self-analysis that this is something about yourself. Then you can embrace or change that part of yourself.
Knowing yourself is one of the biggest assets you can have in your life and career. What we need to remember is that it’s okay to make mistakes, and to go a little easy on ourselves. It’s really easy to doubt oneself, despite the preparation, the confidence and having ticked all the boxes. That feeling is common and I would like to share this. Once you realize that everyone goes through this, you feel normal. Work toward doing the best you can and not let it affect you.